New safety protocols were established in June 2020 by the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council regarding the reconvening of the General Assembly during the COVID-19 health epidemic.
The purpose of these written protocols is to ensure a safe and healthy working environment while the General Assembly is reconvened.
Anyone who is at high-risk of serious illness from COVID-19 or who is experiencing symptoms (including fever, cough, general aches and pains, and fatigue) should stay home and not come to the Capitol.
Members and staff are asked to wear masks or facial coverings at all times that they bring from home. Members of the public must wear masks or facial coverings at all times that they bring from home. Masks should be nonmedical grade, as those supplies should be reserved for medical professionals. Cloth masks should be washed at home each night. Additional masks will be available for members and staff, if needed.
Members and staff are asked to wear gloves when possible, which will be available upon request.
Everyone in the building is asked to wash their hands frequently especially before and after meetings, floor work, upon entering the building and leaving, etc. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
Hand sanitizer will be placed in the chambers, committee rooms, and in public areas.
If possible, everyone in the building should carry sanitizing wipes for door handles, faucets, and other high-contact items. People should sanitize personal high-contact items such as keys, phones, and glasses throughout the day and daily when they return home. Everyone is asked to wear fresh, clean clothing each day.
Everyone is encouraged to bring their own water, food, etc. Communal water spigots and food in the House and Senate should be removed to decrease high contact items and communal water fountains should not be used.
Signage on restrooms about occupancy and cleaning will be created by staff.
Tissues will be placed by the elevators to be used to push the buttons.
Everyone entering the building will undergo a health screening including a temperature check. All members of the public will enter the building through the South Side entrance in a line which will follow social distancing protocols. The North Side entrance will be open as a staff and members entrance, if volunteers are available to complete health checks.
Depending on availability of volunteers at North entrance, members and staff may be screened before entering the chamber or gallery.
A fever is 100.4 or higher. Anyone whose temperature is over 100.4 will be given health recommendations and information about how to participate in the legislative process remotely.
Social Distancing Guidelines
Everyone should practice social distancing in the Capitol, staying a minimum of 6 feet apart from others at all times.
Members should adhere to social distancing guidelines, being very mindful to stay at least 6 feet away from others. Seating in the chamber may be altered to include some members sitting in the gallery and at other locations in the chamber. Microphones will be available in the gallery for members who wish to speak.
Members of the public will have space available to them in the gallery that will follow social distancing guidelines. Compliance with social distancing guidelines may limit the number of members of the public who can be admitted at one time. All members of the public are required to follow social distancing guidelines at all times, including wearing a face covering.
Members of the media will have space reserved for them in the gallery that will follow social distancing guidelines. Compliance with social distancing guidelines may limit the number of members of the media who may be admitted to the gallery at one time. A media pool consisting of one television reporter and one digital or print reporter are allowed access to the chamber floor when a house is in session. All members of the media are required to follow social distancing guidelines at all times, including wearing a face covering.
Members will work with their Aides and Interns to make a plan to follow social distancing guidelines. Staff and Aides are encouraged to work from home when possible. Members may also limit access to their physical offices. It is recommended to only have one person working out of each office.
Non-partisan staff will listen to the guidance from the head of their department who will determine if they need to be in the building or can work from home.
Areas in the capitol that previously allowed larger groups of people to gather in confined spaces will be closed. This includes the House and Senate lobbies and the basement cafeteria.
During floor work, members of the public, lobbyists, and staff will be able to watch floor proceedings in either the Old Supreme Court Chambers or the Old State Library (Room 271). Compliance with social distancing guidelines may limit the number of people who can be admitted to these rooms at one time.
Communal refrigerators, kitchens, copy machines, printers, mailboxes, etc will either have limited use or be sanitized frequently. Staff will post signage directing use.
Tours of the building will remain cancelled.
Protocols for Committee Meetings
Public committee testimony and participation will still occur, however access to the committee rooms will be limited to allow for social distancing. Overflow rooms will be available although compliance with social distancing guidelines may limit the number of people who can be admitted to these rooms at one time, and the public is encouraged to listen and submit testimony online. Additional opportunities to submit written testimony will be available.
It is recommended committees use Old State Library (271), Old Supreme Court Chambers, or Senate Committee Room 357 for committee hearings in order to achieve the greatest social distancing, especially if witnesses are present.
Witnesses in committee should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times. Committee rooms may be reorganized to minimize contact in order to reduce the amount of cleaning and sanitizing necessary. Fewer witnesses should be called to the table at one time to increase social distance. Witnesses may be required to stand at a microphone to eliminate having to disinfect the witness chairs and tables between witnesses.
If possible, remote participation and written testimony are encouraged.
Microphones will be covered using disposable socks and participants will be asked to adjust microphones with a fresh tissue.
Committees are asked to be paperless.
Protocols for Floor Proceedings
Members of the House will have the choice of either sitting at their desks, sitting in the gallery, or participating remotely under certain conditions. Senators will have the choice of either sitting on the floor using every other seat, and avoiding sitting directly behind another member; sitting in the gallery; or participating remotely under certain conditions. The Chief Clerk in the House and Secretary of the Senate will make the new seating charts in consultation with caucus leadership.
Members that are experiencing symptoms or are at high-risk of serious illness from COVID-19 should stay home and notify their leadership. This will help to create seating charts and ensure that a quorum is present.
Aides and interns will not be allowed on the floor to allow for social distancing. Nonpartisan staff will be asked to be in the chamber only if necessary for floor proceedings.
Microphones in the well will be covered using disposable socks. Tissues should be used to adjust microphone or podium height. Portable microphones will be used in the gallery.
Members are asked to maintain social distancing on the floor, including in the well, center aisle, etc. Members are asked to have only one person on either side of the well and members can remain in other space in each chamber while waiting to speak. Leadership in each caucus is asked to help facilitate and convey that there are members who wish to speak but do not want to come to the well due to the lack of social distancing. This can be done through notifying or texting leadership, the Chair of the COW, or the Secretary of the Senate/Chief Clerk in the House, for example.
Staff will prop open doors to the chambers so that no one needs to touch door knobs. Everyone in the chambers should be especially mindful of the items that they handle. They are encouraged to adjust microphones and other communal items using fresh tissues, to clean surfaces as often as possible, and to bring their own food, beverages and water bottle from home. Cards will not be accepted in the lobby. Signage will be posted with information on how to contact each member through electronic communication. Sergeants will not distribute items on members' desks.
In the chamber, members and staff are encouraged not to use paper whenever possible. The Chief Clerk in the House and the Secretary of the Senate will determine protocols regarding materials that previously have been printed and distributed.
House and Senate non-partisan staff will notify Leadership if the chamber should go into recess so that surfaces can be sanitized. The non-partisan staff will work to continually sanitize items that persons frequently contact.
Plexiglas partitions have been ordered and will be placed between members' desks in the House and in some places in the Senate where 6 foot social distancing is not feasible.